I’ve got a new post up at Going To Seminary where I talk about how it’s hard to make and sustain community, even in seminary. I’m writing mainly about my experience at in in-residence seminary program (my experience with distance learning has been quite different, as you can imagine). But, even if you’re not in seminary, the lessons in the piece are entirely applicable to general church life as well. Check it out, and let me know what you think! Here’s the intro:
Seminaries are weird creatures. In the beginning, most everyone is new and has to do the awkward dance of forming relationships while at the same time trying to find a flow for school to survive. It takes a unique person to really be a part of both the academics and communal side of seminary. And let’s face it: no one is holding your hand there; you mostly have to be self-motivated and spiritually self-sustaining, because the usual church structures that motivate, support and counsel just aren’t there at seminary. Even things like prayer groups and chapels are still only as helpful as the attention you put into them.
Check out the rest of my Going To Seminary posts.
(On a side note, I’m sorry that the picture above only has men in it. I hate that, but it represents some of the themes of the piece really well.)
Church plants are weird creatures. In the beginning, most everyone is new and has to do the awkward dance of forming relationships while at the same time trying to see a fledgling church survive. It takes a unique person to really be a part of a church plant, that’s for sure. You mostly have to be self-motivated and spiritually self-sustaining, because the usual church structures that motivate, support and counsel just aren’t there in the early days of a church.
Over time, during these early days, your relationships slowly develop. They are usually borne out from the fiery flames of awkwardness and uncertainty, and having to force yourself into social situations you would not normally put on yourself, but this difficulty forges these relationships deeply. You get to know one another very deeply very quickly and love each other through it. This creates a very deep bond, however unspoken it may be.
As promised, this week’s weekly must-reads tend towards the theological. We do have some political “leftovers” from last week that you all should find interesting. So, as usual, read to your heart’s content and please comment and let me know what you think about these!
More Like Prayer 5 | Jesus Creed
Fascinating and oh-so-brief introduction to a whole new way of looking at the gospel, politics, and the church. Wow.
Mercifully Forsaken | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction
Wow. Simply wow. Such a beautiful and powerful piece of writing on the mercy of God in his forsaking of us. Did not expect this from Christianity Today (front page, no less!).
For all those in Philly that either do attend liberti: center city, have attended, or are interested in getting involved: this week marks the beginning of our new season of home meetings. I don’t know why, but I am so excited about this particular round of meetings. Yes, I lead one, but more than that, I feel that the season in which the church currently finds itself is one where a lot of growth (both painful and joyful) is imminent; and I think that these Liberti Home Meetings will be a primary catalyst for this growth. [Click here for a complete list and map of our groups if you are interested in checking any of them out.]
In the past year and some change, throughout my involvement at Liberti, home meetings have been a constant source of amazing discussion, deep personal analysis, and action mobilization. I really can’t commend these things enough. My deepest relationships, and even where I moved into the city, were all fruits borne from my time in my home meetings.
[This weekend, I had the privilege of helping lead the prayers and liturgy at my church. I thought I would post my manuscript up for all to read and take part in as well. I hope this blesses you to read as it blessed me to write.]
Greeting and Preparation
Leader: The Lord be with you.
People: And also with you.
Hello, my name is Paul, and welcome to Liberti: South Philly. We are a community of people–people with struggles, doubts, addictions, and frustrations–who are still in the process of figuring out what it means to believe in this God we believe in, and relate to Him and others in a way that reflects that belief. This may be your first time here or your hundredth, but either way we want to welcome you all and we hope that your time here today is meaningful.
The part of the Christian faith we will be talking about today is that of community and relationships. Most likely all of us in here have our own sets of insecurities, uncertainties, and baggage concerning this topic. Our relationships seem to be the area that can frustrate us like no other; the area that it appears no amount of mere intellectual knowledge can change. It is often the source of our greatest joys, our deepest sorrows, and our most profound change.
As many of us twentysomethings have been bemoaning this entire Fall Season, our generation’s across-the-board favorite comedy, The Office, is declining rapidly. Jim and Pam’s wedding episode was one of the funniest episodes the show has ever seen, but it’s perhaps the only episode all season that had me consistently laughing out loud. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not completely dead. I still sit through (most, not all) episodes with a pleasant smile on my face, but few times will I actually laugh out loud.
It takes a lot to make me laugh out loud. So when a show is able to make me do it consistently almost through an entire episode, I find myself shocked and awed. Friends and (admittedly) Everybody Loves Raymond had been the closest I had experienced to this, until The Office came along and blew my every expectation possible for a comedy. The first handful of seasons of that show are, I feel, among the funniest TV has ever seen. But The Office of today is a mere shadow of The Office of yester-season. But not one but two shows have more than made up for this lack of laugh-out-loud-ness this season.